The self lost, the self adjusted: Forming a new identity in bereavement memoirs by American women
Adam Mickiewicz University
Most Western cultures place a great value on autonomy. American society in particular has always stressed the need to succeed via self-reliance, a characteristic which, in recent decades, has additionally manifested itself in an increasing inclination for self-examination reflected in the deluge of autobiographical writing, especially memoirs. This analysis focuses on memoirs of spousal loss, a specific subgenre of life writing in which, due to the loss of a loved one, the narrating self realizes how unstable a sense of autonomy is. In their bereavement narratives, Joan Didion, Anne Roiphe, and Joyce Carol Oates admit that after losing a life partner their world crumbled and so did their sense of self. The article examines the following aspects of the grieving self: 1. how grief tests one’s self-sufficiency; 2. how various grief reactions contribute to self-disintegration; 3. the widow as a new and undesirable identity; and 4. writing as a way of regaining one’s sense of self.
self, loss, widow, bereavement, memoir, independence, grief, writing, narrative, self-pity
Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, vol. 50.2-3 (2015), pp. 155-174